Mervyn Smyth named as BBC NI Unsung Hero for 2014

Mervyn Smyth was selected as the 2014 BBC Sport NI Unsung Hero

Ballinamallard man Mervyn Smyth has been named as BBC Northern Ireland's Get Inspired Unsung Hero for 2014.

Mervyn was chosen in recognition of his his commitment and dedication to the youth programme at Ballinamallard United Football Club.

The County Fermanagh man has been instrumental in the setting up and co-ordinating of the Mini Soccer and youth programmes at the club on a voluntary basis since 1996.

Since then, he has given an extraordinary amount of his time and effort towards ensuring that their youth programme are fully inclusive regardless of gender, background or age.

The Mini Soccer League, which now has 230 children enrolled, has seen nearly 40 children represent Northern Ireland since 1996.

Mervyn has proven his dedication to all elements of the club - as well as being Chairman of the Youth Committee, a key member for the Ground Development committee and fundraising for the club, he has also taken responsibility for washing the kits and mowing the grass - that is before the installation of their new 3G pitch.

He was announced as the winner of the BBC Sports Unsung Hero award 2014 for Northern Ireland on Tuesday 18 November.

Now in its 12th year, the BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award recognises and rewards outstanding contribution by individuals at the grassroots level of local sport, who give up their time on a voluntary basis so that sport can be played and enjoyed by people throughout the UK.

Previous BBC Northern Ireland Unsung Hero winners
2013: Sam McBurney, Newforge Taggers Tag Rugby Club
2012: Leonard Blakely, Moneyslane Football Club
2011: Sean McGoldrick, Eoghan Rua GAA
2010: Carmel Gorman and Seamus McAnee, Derry Swimming Club
2009: Bobby Platt, Bann Rowing Club
2008: Frank Gervin, Clonoe Boxing Gym
2007: Michael McGreevy, Dromore Athletics Club

Mervyn now progresses to the Unsung Hero final as the regional winner for Northern Ireland.

"I am absolutely delighted and honoured to receive BBC NI's Unsung Hero Award - it was a total surprise," admitted Mervyn.

"I would like to accept the award on behalf of everyone at Ballinamallard United as recognition of the many hours put in by all the committee and coaches who provide the opportunity for everyone in our community to enjoy football. It will be a great honour to represent our Club and at the main awards night in Glasgow."

Ballinamallard United manager Whitey Anderson said: "Nobody deserves this accolade more than Mervyn - the time, dedication and passion that he has given to the club and particularly to the youth programme over the past two decades is remarkable.

"We are very fortunate that he is such an integral part of Ballinamallard United and on behalf of the team and all the staff I want to congratulate Mervyn and wish him all the best for the national awards in December."

There will be 15 regional winners of a Get Inspired Unsung Hero award from across the UK, who will attend the star-studded 60th BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, on Sunday 14 December at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow where an overall Unsung Hero winner will be announced.

Jane Tohill, Executive producer, Sport, BBC Northern Ireland, said: "Mervyn is a very worthy winner of the BBC Northern Ireland's Get Inspired Unsung Hero Sports Unsung Hero title in Northern Ireland as he provides an outlet for many people who may not otherwise have the chance to get involved with sport.

"As in previous years, it has been difficult to pick a winner from those who were nominated - there are so many people here who make such a valuable contribution to their sport and to their area. Thanks to all who nominated their Unsung Heroes. Mervyn is an inspiration and we wish him all the best at the overall awards in December."